Kala Bistro, nestled between Whitney Avenue and Skiff Street in North Haven, opened just last month, but on Wednesday evening it bustled with business people, old friends and couples, who sipped wine and shared stories across candle-lit tables, munching on dishes inspired by European, South American and Asian cuisine.
On the table, the waitress placed the plate of bite-sized croquettes — bechamel and prosciutto fried in breadcrumbs, then garnished with nutmeg and aioli. This dish was just one of the many “small bites” offered on Kala Bistro’s menu, which ranged in price from $6 to $13. Alongside the croquettes, the waitress served codfish mousse, wild shrimp rolls, bao pork belly and an authentic Spanish potato omelette.
Manuel Romero, owner and executive chef at Kala Bistro, opened the restaurant in hopes of creating an all-inclusive, casual neighborhood space, while still offering high-quality global flavors, he said. Romero, who also co-owns the Spanish-Mediterranean restaurant Olea at 39 High St., added that he hoped the restaurant would become a “destination bistro” for residents outside North Haven, noting the bistro’s free parking and accessibility via I-91 and Route 15.
“We want to make sure that anyone can come here,” Romero said. “I know there are some people who feel a little out of place if they show up at Olea in blue jeans, and we want people to know that at Kala Bistro there is no need to dress up.”
Local food blogger Dana Dane, one of the customers in attendance, detailed the two main courses she ate on her website, “Dana Licious Reviews.” She described the trout as a skin-on fillet served over Lyonnaise potato and shallots and glazed in a Dijon mustard sauce. Yet she said in an interview that her favorite dish at Kala Bistro was the duck confit cassoulet, an entree made with duck leg, bacon, white beans, thyme and boudin noir. This wide array of components demonstrated chef Romero’s ability to play with ingredients to create a rich and savory taste, Dane said.
Romero said he tries to source local ingredients, primarily from the New England area, such as kale from Farmington. He added that rather than focusing on farm-to-table cuisine, his restaurant focuses on incorporating the freshest seasonal ingredients into his global-fusion bistro.
“I love cooking, and people in Spain take meals very seriously,” Romero said. “For me personally, one of the best ways to enjoy life is to have a nice meal with the right people, and all I want is for people to enjoy what they eat. That is Kala Bistro’s goal.”
After a main course on Wednesday evening, customers were offered the dessert menu, complete with coffee, tea, flan and mousse. Dane highlighted the “to-die-for” chocolate mousse, noting that it came with “chocolate and hazelnut cookies, topped with crunchy chocolate pearls.”
Jim Frawley — a longtime customer of Romero’s other restaurant, Olea — said he enjoyed Olea’s food options and customer service, especially when the staff would bring out wine and fish samples, and found the restaurant’s atmosphere to be formal but not pretentious. Many business gatherings and romantic dinners occur at Olea, Frawley said. He even celebrated his anniversary there, he added.
While Frawley has not yet visited Kala Bistro, after hearing about the restaurant in the press and from Olea’s newsletters and Facebook page, he said he would consider checking it out as his wife found their anniversary dinner at Olea too extravagant.
“My wife thought we were served too much food across a tasting menu,” Frawley said. “I think she would like a more casual tapas-type atmosphere, and I believe that’s where Kala might be headed.”
Kala Bistro’s first open house took place on Sept. 10, and the restaurant opened to the public on Sept. 14.
Kiddest Sinke | firstname.lastname@example.org